COVID-era artifact, emergency-produced hand sanitizer, comes to an end for local distillery

Nov 26, 2021, 2:55 PM
hand sanitizer...
Courtesy Copperworks Distilling Company

While the pandemic lingers in Washington state, one of its relics disappears.

A local distillery, Copperworks Distilling Company, has been ordered to shut down its manufacturing of hand sanitizer, a pivot the company made in 2020 away from supplying local bars and restaurants with spirits and into providing crucial health care supplies while the country experienced shortages.

In March 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration relaxed its requirements for the manufacturing of hand sanitizer, and allowed distilleries to produce alcohol-based alternatives to accommodate the supply shortage.

Copperworks Distilling in Seattle’s downtown waterfront district was among the region’s first to use their grain neutral 191 proof spirit to supply first responders, health care workers, and the health care community at large with hand sanitizer.

“When the pandemic forced us to slow down production of our spirits due to the closure of our tasting room, and virtually all bars and restaurants across Washington, we felt it was our community responsibility to respond to the hand sanitizer shortage,” wrote Jeff Kanof, co-owner and vice president of Copperworks Distilling Co., in a news release. “While it was a costly endeavor upfront, it enabled us to retain employees so they could continue to work and earn a living.”

Now, the FDA, guided by health care and consumer data that indicates there is no longer a shortage of the product, has ordered that all undistributed hand sanitizer manufactured under the temporary guidelines before Dec. 31, 2021, must be destroyed by the end of next March.

Copperworks reports that it still retains roughly 50,000 bottles of undistributed hand sanitizer. They add that they were unable to break even on the product as they purchased more raw material than they could sell.

“We’re considering putting an ad on Craigslist since we are simply not reaching enough people and destroying it would be costly and a waste of perfectly good product,” said Jason Parker, co-founder and president of Copperworks Distilling Co. “We would love any organizations or businesses that need sanitizer to come and get it since the product is safe to use and store. We just are not allowed to market it ourselves after March.”

Retailers are still able to sell the product after the March 31, 2022, deadline. Only manufacturers are required to recycle and dispose product at that time.

“We were able to donate more than 2,000 bottles to area non-profits such as Refuge Women’s Alliance (ReWa), the Pike Place Market Food Bank, Boys and Girls Club, the Seattle Aquarium, Renton Technical College, and local businesses, such as Emerald City Trapeze Arts, and many local breweries,” Parker added.

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COVID-era artifact, emergency-produced hand sanitizer, comes to an end for local distillery